I love a warm salad during summer. It can sit out on the counter while your meat or tofu grills and be the better for it.
I make these salads a little luxurious, too, by breaking out my pricey specialty oils, like walnut and hazelnut. Sticking to fresh produce and a simple preparation allows the flavor of the oil to shine.
One salad I’ve honed combines Brussels sprouts, pine nuts and a vinaigrette made with orange juice, hazelnut oil and a little onion powder. Onion powder is one of those oddball things that adds complexity and prevents blandness, especially with concoctions containing citrus juice. Don’t substitute raw onions -they won’t work the same way.
Now, not everyone likes Brussels sprouts, so feel free to substitute green beans. If you like these cabbage creatures, however, you’ll love the way this salad provides a little sweetness and nuttiness to balance their strength and bitter notes.
I generally make this when Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market have beautiful, fresh Brussels sprouts with tight heads. The fewer stray leaves you have for this recipe the better, but nothing’s a show-stopper.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
Scant 1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 or 3 tablespoons roasted hazelnut or walnut oil*
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from sweet oranges – not too tart)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1). Whisk together ingredients for vinaigrette and set aside. Don’t worry about the lack of salt.
2). Toast pine nuts quickly in a saute pan. Keep them moving over a medium-low flame. You know how to do this. Move to a small bowl and set aside.
3). After you clean and trim sprouts, steam them for a minute or two, depending upon size, and then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. Dry thoroughly (this is important!) and cut in half, lengthwise. You can roast them without par-cooking; try it both ways and see what you like best.
4). Toss sprouts with canola oil and a generous number of cranks of sea salt on a sheet pan. When coated, arrange them cut side down.
5). Roast at 400 F. until you get some browning action on the cut side, but you don’t want them to overcook. Sometimes this takes 10 minutes, sometimes 20, like if I’m working with Rambo-sized vegetables. Once they are just tender, remove them to a nice, large bowl regardless of how they look.
6). Pour vinaigrette over Brussels sprouts and toss to coat.
7). Taste and adjust seasonings.
8). Allow to sit on counter for a good 45 minutes, tossing every now and then.
9). Top with pine nuts right before you serve.
*This can be expensive, like $15-for-a-small-bottle expensive. Sometimes the people from La Tourangelle are at Costco selling an assortment pack of three 8.5 ounce bottles of oil, usually hazelnut, almond and walnut, for $20. This is a steal. Keep it in the fridge – this is a must!